Carl Van Vechten photographed many of the major artists and intellectuals of the first half of the 20th century. The importance of these images is twofold; they document a specific time and milieu in 20th-century American history that was neglected by others and they are among some of the earliest art photography images created. While Van Vechten never created images as technically complex as some of the professional photographers of his day, a consistent artistic sensibility pervades his work. In particular, his portraits of influential African-Americans illustrate a rich artistic and intellectual era in the African-American community. There are 1689 black and white photographs in the collection. While Van Vechten gave photographic collections to several universities and libraries, each one varies in scope.